Virgin’s Cash Cows

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Another album ‘sampler’, from another era. Virgin were selling this for the price of a 45rpm single, and it wasn’t the first time they’d tried a stunt like that – a few years earlier they’d done the same thing with The Faust Tapes, which sold quite well as a result. I believe it was Faust‘s idea originally, though you won’t find those krautrock legends on this record. Branson and Co. had already dropped them like the hot potato they were. But the marketing idea lived on. I paid 99p for it last week, which is roughly the price of a single mp3 download, so not much has changed, really.

The album covers most of Virgin’s 1980 roster, with big-hitters of the New Wave like OMD, Japan, XTC and The Human League nestling alongside less commercially visible acts like Nash The Slash, Valerie Lagrange and Fingerprinz. Not forgetting Magazine, Martha & The Muffins and The Flying Lizards. The old guard were represented by the future-blues of Captain Beefheart sitting uncomfortably next to the trad-blues of Gillan, plus the label’s flagship beardy synth-gods Tangerine Dream. The focus is on album tracks, rather than singles, so there’s actually quite a few tunes on here I’ve not heard before.

Great sleeve, I think. Each act is a ‘cut’ of beef on the side of the cow, whilst a fishnet-clad milkmaid lurks in the background, busily milking the cow for all it’s worth. Piles of money lie scattered in the field, even in the cow-pat – seems there was money to be made from shit, too. Were they making some sort of ironic comment, or just being extremely honest? This was afterall the beginning of Thatcher’s ’80s, when it was suddenly okay for everyone to aspire to being rich pop stars. And Virgin Records, born at the arse-end of the hippy years, was ready to ride the capitalist gravy train all the way.

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Published in: on November 30, 2009 at 10:33 am  Comments (8)  
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8 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Hi – don’t know if you’re still out there. I’ve just realised that this seems to be an ‘alternative’ version of this album – different from the one shown on Discogs. That one doesn’t have the OMD track, for example. Can you let me know the full track listing and more details? Thanks.

    • Hi Mark, click on the artwork, then click on it again to enlarge to see the tracks on the Lp/cat. number. Thanks for reading.

      • Hi – thanks for your fast reply. In the meantime I discovered that this is the release for Canada only, which had a different tracklist from the UK release(s), possibly because it contains a number of tracks which were released under the Virgin sub-label DinDisc, eg. OMITD, Martha & Muffins, Nash the Slash….
        Compare! http://www.discogs.com/Various-Cash-Cows/release/1112802

        Are you in Canada or did you just happen to have this release as opposed to the UK one?

      • This entry was, I think, composed by Ekolad, who, alas, no longer contributes to Thrifty Vinyl. He’s based in Bristol, so my guess is that it it simply came Bromley Heath charity shop-way via import.

        To be clear, most records herein (with the odd exception) are UK charity shop finds.

  2. OK, thanks again – great blog. Keep up the sturdy work.

  3. I just found my copy of this in the attic. There’s a couple of differences in the track listing. No OMD, no Nash the Slash. I guess there was different cash to be had on different sides of the Atlantic.

    • Licencing issues, I believe.

    • And different cows.


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